11. Review: Sherlock Holmes – A Study in Scarlet

[As last night sort of threw my plan off kilter, I shall commence a themed blogging week NEXT week, and continue being totally random this week until I get my act together.]

Over Christmas, my brother bought me the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, which I had asked for after watching the Steven Moffat series and panting a bit at the sight of Benedict Cumberbatch. Well, alright – my love of the series wasn’t all down to Crumpetbatch (as he is now affectionately known by my friends), it was the slickness of the writing. Realising I’ve barely read any of the tales of this iconic, three-pipe-problem of a detective, I suddenly became hungry to devour these legendary stories as quickly as I could – if the clever writing of the series was inspired by the genius of the original books then I would have to be on to a winner.

I began, unsurprisingly, at the very beginning: A Study in Scarlet, in which we join Doctor Watson in meeting Holmes for the first time. I was struck by how vivid the imagery was, and how even though there was a lot of overly descriptive prose and info-dumping (in the form of the explanation of what it is to be a Consulting Detective, written in the form of an article penned by Holmes himself), I was still very much intrigued to continue. This may have had something to do with Doctor Watson mentioning how interested he was in Holmes every two paragraphs or so, but still… I’m clearly easily led.

The story itself is pure genius from the moment we are led to the mysterious body and Holmes’ manic prancing around the crime scene trying to work out the length of someone’s stride by the footprints in the dust, right up until the moment Holmes, Gregson and Lestrade all have to jump around the room to detain their taxi driver, whom Holmes has correctly identified as the one what dunnit.

The issue is, the story could have ended there. Only instead, fairy-loving Arthur Conan Doyle takes us on a bizarre, five-chapter detour into the intimate past life of the murderer and a bunch of people he knew. All very interesting, only actually not interesting at all, as they’re all mormons that spend their lives farming, arguing over wives, and painting numbers on various surfaces in the middle of the night. I know Arthur Conan Doyle wished he could write history novels deep down (but the detective stories were all that would sell), but he really should have sucked it up and got on with the detecting stuff.

My heart sank with each turn of the page, until finally the story is redeemed slightly by its ending, in which Sherlock’s deductions are revealed and then the murderer’s heart explodes or something.

All in all… it was enjoyable. In parts. The main redeeming features are Watson are Holmes: vivid, intriguing characters that have made me resolve to read every single last one of the remaining stories, no matter what Arthur Conan Doyle throws at me.

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3 thoughts on “11. Review: Sherlock Holmes – A Study in Scarlet

  1. Definitely don’t be put off the rest of the books (is it just the four novels or does the collection include some of the shorts?). I always found ‘A Study in Scarlet’ was let down by irrelevant sections of writing but, I still love ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ to this day… even if it’s been a while since I last read it, and I first read it when I was eight.

    I think, often or not, first books (especially of series) lack something and can be a bit disappointing. Not to mention, I think there’s a 10-20 year gap between ‘A Study in Scarlet’ and ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’, so it’s likely his writing style changed … can’t be certain, as I say, long time since I’ve read them.

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